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Hanley Ramirez to begin rehab assignment Saturday with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga

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The Quakes host the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres) on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at LoanMart Field in Rancho Cucamonga.

USA TODAY Sports

Hanley Ramirez will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Saturday night with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, manager Don Mattingly said on Friday. The move puts Ramirez in line for a return to the Dodgers at some point next week, far ahead of the original expected recovery time from right thumb surgery.

The rehab assignment will be at least two games. During the recent road trip, Ramirez told reporters he wanted to return in time for his 'I see you' bobblehead giveaway at Dodger Stadium, on Tuesday night against Colorado. A weekend rehab assignment would put Ramirez in line to be activated in time for that game, over two weeks ahead of schedule. Though it might be later in the week, depending on how Ramirez progresses.

"Monday would be pretty optimistic I think," Mattingly said. "He hasn't played in a while."

Mattingly said he doesn't necessarily have a return date in mind for Ramirez, other than when he feels ready.

"The one thing I do want with Hanley is for him to be comfortable out there on defense. He's worked really hard on his defense. I don't really want him to come back just to be back. All these guys always want to come off the DL. They don't want to be on any longer than they have to be. I want him to be ready to play at a level that's natural and coming easy. Not where he has to think about throwing or how he's gripping the ball."

Ramirez had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb on Mar. 22, from an injury suffered in the World Baseball Classic final at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The original diagnosis was that Ramirez would return to the Dodgers in eight weeks, which would have been May 17.

Ramirez has gradually increased his pregame baseball work over the last few weeks, including full batting practice and fielding drills.

"I'm not worried about offense at all," Mattingly said. "The splint that he plays with has allowed him to do a lot of stuff, and it protects him from re-injuring it. But he's still playing with a splint and he has to play with that to be able to play. He's getting used to throwing with it."

Without Ramirez this season, Dodgers shortstops, including Justin Sellers (61 plate appearances), Luis Cruz (11 PA), and Nick Punto (five PA) have combined to hit just .176/.260/.221 with one home run and three runs batted in.